DARPA, the research arm of the Pentagon, is investigating ways to download skills directly into the human brain, similar to how a computer downloads a program from the internet.
For instance, imagine downloading a foreign language and then being able to speak that same language immediately, with a proper dialect and native delivery. This would be a major leap forward in education.
In March 2016, DARPA — the U.S. military’s “mad science” branch — announced their Targeted Neuroplasticity Training (TNT) program. The TNT program aims to explore various safe neurostimulation methods for activating synaptic plasticity, which is the brain’s ability to alter the connecting points between neurons — a requirement for learning. DARPA hopes that building up that ability by subjecting the nervous system to a kind of workout regimen will enable the brain to learn more quickly.
While downloadable knowledge could benefit every human, having such abilities could mean the difference between success and failure or life and death when it comes to military operations.
To ensure the work stays practical, foreign language specialists, intelligence analysts, and others who train personnel now will work with researchers to help refine the TNT platform to suit military training needs. Researchers will compare the efficacy of using an implanted device to stimulate the brain versus non-invasive stimulation. They will also explore both the ethics of enhanced learning through neurostimulation and ways to avoid side effects and potential risks.